Thousands of Sydneysiders gathered at the Sydney Opera House this afternoon to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, to Australia along with the NSW Governor, Marie Bashir and her husband Sir Nicholas Shehadie.
The Royal couple waved to the crowds and the Prince’s wife, Catherine, briefly spoke to children gathered at the Opera House forecourt before heading inside, where the Duke addressed 400 dignitaries, praising Australia for its strength in coping with disaster as well as helping in times of international crisis.
The Prince also acknowledged his late mother Princess Diana’s love for Australia.
After a night at Admiralty House, the Governor-General’s house at Kirribilli, the Royal couple head to the Blue Mountains tomorrow to meet locals recovering from last October’s bushfires before returning to Sydney.
Here’s what Prince William said in his welcome speech:
There cannot be a more impressive place than the iconic Sydney Opera House to begin our first visit together to Australia. I know that New South Wales is a very special place, and Catherine and I are looking forward to seeing that for ourselves over the coming days.
My last visit to Australia – in 2011 – was at a sad and testing time for the nation. A cyclone followed by flooding had devastated lives and property in Queensland, and bush fires had ravaged the State of Victoria.
I am sorry to return to find that, yet again, fellow Australians in north Queensland are coping with the aftermath of another destructive cyclone.
Australia has much to contend with at the moment: your contribution to the ongoing search for MH370 has earned respect in every quarter of the globe. Australia’s determined and leading role in the search is at the very edge of technological ability and human endurance.
You have also responded with great generosity in the past few days to the natural disaster afflicting the Solomon Islands, which is suffering dreadfully from floods and successive earthquakes.
Australia has led the international response in a way that is testament to the strength of your partnerships with your neighbours, and the important role that Australia plays both regionally and globally.
This visit to Australia has been one that Catherine and I have been looking forward to for a long time. On my first visit here as an adult in 2010, I remember just how bowled over I was by Sydney: seeing the energy and diversity of this beautiful city, and understanding just how much Australia is the home of innovation, opportunity and possibility.
I was well prepared: the affection that my grandmother The Queen has for this nation is infectious.
Her Majesty spoke recently of how, since her first visit here 60 years ago, she has been privileged to witness Australia’s growing economy and flowering self-confidence.
For Catherine, Harry and me, born in the early ’80s, we’ve never known anything else – Australia and Australians have always been for us a beacon of confidence, creativity in the arts and sporting ability.
Harry felt very honoured to be invited to the centenary Fleet Review in Sydney Harbour last year; and I know how much my father enjoyed his visit here in honour of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
My mother’s deep affection for Australia – which you were so kind to reciprocate – needs no reminder.
I don’t think I could finish these brief words to you without mentioning one other family member, George, who is now busy forging his own link with Australia.
Catherine and I were very grateful for the many kind messages and gifts from across the country that we received when George was born. I suspect George’s first word might be ‘bilby’ – only because ‘koala’ is harder to say.
We really look forward to our time here together as a family.
Australia is an inspiring place, as this amazing Opera House shows so vividly, and I know that a truly unforgettable few days lie ahead.
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